Income Splitting – Prescribed Rate Loans

Posted on June 17th, 2022 in Domestic Tax

couple sitting on couch tearing a sign in half with a dollar sign on it

A common question that gets asked is, “Are there any ways of splitting income with my spouse?” This is especially popular when two spouses have significantly different levels of income, meaning that they are taxed at vastly different marginal tax rates. In the ideal scenario, the higher-income spouse would be able to shift some of their investment income to their spouse’s tax return in order to utilize the marginal rate tax system in Canada and pay lower taxes overall. Specifically, in Ontario, the lowest combined tax bracket is 20.05% which is the tax rate that an individual would pay on most income sources up to about $46,000 of taxable income. In Ontario, an individual starts to pay a 53.53% combined income tax rate on most sources of income when their taxable income exceeds about $222,000. As shown, there are varying tax rates that are levied in Ontario which makes it desirable to income-split with your spouse, given the right circumstances.

One potential income-splitting strategy is to provide your spouse or a family trust with a prescribed rate loan. It is important to highlight the difference between “a gift” to a spouse or a family trust and a “prescribed rate loan”. If funds are being gifted, then the income generated from that gift are subject to the attribution rules of the Income Tax Act and the income is reported on the gifting individual’s tax return resulting in no income-splitting benefit. The prescribed rate loan strategy also avoids any negative implications of the Tax on Split Income (TOSI) rules. In order to avoid the attribution rules, the following criteria must be met:

  1. Interest must be charged on a loan at a rate equal to or greater than the prescribed rate that was in effect at the time the loan was made; and
  2. The amount of interest that was payable in respect of each year the loan is outstanding is paid no later than January 30 of the following year.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) prescribed rate is 3% (previously 2%) after September 30, 2022. This strategy is only effective if the loaned funds are generating income at a rate that is higher than the prescribed rate of 3%.

Click on the Downloadable Table button below for an example of the tax savings calculation by effectively utilizing the prescribed rate spousal loan.

There are some additional steps that need to be undertaken in order to formalize the spousal or family trust  loan and to be in accordance to CRA’s protocols:

  1. A promissory note should be drafted and signed by both parties to formalize the terms of the loan.
  2. The interest on the loan needs to be paid, preferably from an account solely in the payer’s name to an account solely in the recipient’s name, before January 30 annually.  Documentation such as cancelled cheques or proof of transfer should be retained for CRA audit purposes.

Further considerations need to be explored if any US persons (US resident, US citizen or green card holder) are involved in this type of arrangement. These issues are beyond the scope of this article.

In closing, the prescribed rate spousal or family trust loan strategy can be an effective way to income-split with your spouse or a family trust in the right circumstances. It is also important to follow all of the Income Tax Act’s rules to ensure you are onside should CRA ever review the details of the loan arrangement. Contact one of our Taxation Professionals if you feel you may benefit from a prescribed rate spousal or family trust loan arrangement.

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